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Viewer's guide to meteor showers

By: Katherine Butler on Aug. 9, 2012, 12:12 p.m.
shooting star over observatory

Photo: ESO/S. Guisard

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Perseids over the Very Large Telescope, Chile

The best conditions to observe a meteor shower are a clear, unobstructed view and the darkest conditions possible. Pictured here are the Perseids over the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile as photographed in mid-August 2010. More meteors can be seen in the hours before dawn, as opposed to the hours in the evening. This is because the “leading edge” of the Earth as it rotates around the sun happens in the morning. The number of meteors also changes due to the seasons, as the Earth tilts on its axis. As the American Meteor Society writes, “As a general rule, about 2 to 3 times as many sporadic meteors can be seen in the early fall (September) as can be seen in the early spring (March).”